Are you having greater levels of conflict and tension in your relationships since COVID-19? Are you finding it more challenging to interact and be present for the people you love and care about? This seems to be a common experience for a great number of people during this difficult time, one we are all going through together. My favorite prescription for being more able to tend to your relationships, decrease conflict, and increase satisfaction in your relationships is simple, love yourself first.
When was the last time you felt like you had taken really good care of yourself? How long has it been since you were consistent with diet and exercise? When was the last time you can say you allowed curiosity into your life and learned something new? When was the last time you considered what you are grateful for? Fact of the matter is, people who have a hard time giving themselves love, don't have energy left to give it to others. When we don't have the energy to give to others, we approach our relationships with expectation to help fill our own voids. This is a path full of resentments and conflict, and the creation of significant emotional disconnection.
Loving yourself is not self indulgence, its self care. That is an important distinction to make because too often people use that title "self care," to engage in entitled behavior. "I get to drink because I am stressed out and I am trying to relax." "I get to eat this tray of cookies because I earned it. I am stuck at home all day with three crazy kids, and they are Keto cookies so it doesn't count." "I will start exercising tomorrow. They just released the new hit thing on Netflix." These things are not self care.
Self care is about doing the things your brain and body need in order for you to be able to adapt and be present to your current situation. Eating a consistent and healthy diet, exercising daily, new learning. These three things in particular help your brain achieve greater levels of neuroplasticity, which is your brain's ability to adapt and change. Important questions to ask yourself then each day:
-Did I exercise sufficiently?
-Did I eat healthy?
-Did I learn something new today?
-What am I thinking and feeling today? What do I need about those thoughts and feelings?
There is one more question I would want people to add to that list, is there anything I am grateful for today? With so much change, and so much loss, it is important to continue to find humility and gratitude. Not only does this provide us time to focus on positives, it is also a simple thing to do to help provide perspective, something we all need to keep tabs on right now.
If you're thinking to yourself, "All these "self love" things seem like more things I have to do in a day," or, "these things seem like a lot of work," you are exactly who is supposed to be reading this post. If you think putting time and energy into yourself as a person (who is worthy of the effort of love) seems tiring, why are you shocked by your struggling in relationships? People who can't love themselves can't be there to love others. So go out there and love yourselves first people or in other words, get to work!
Frank Thayer MA LADC LMFT
Lakeshore Family Therapy, LLC